The Minister of Agriculture, Animal Industry, and Fisheries, Mr. Frank Tumwebaze acting on President Museveni’s directive was on a one-day field visit to grape farmers at Nyakayojo and Katojo Cells in Mbarara City South Division, where he explained that his tour intended to help farmers to produce good yields that would fetch them a good market both locally and internationally. In addition, he said that the Government is planning to boost grape farming in Uganda as one of the ways to help Ugandans improve their household incomes.
“We are currently having a trade problem with Kenya. We used to get grapes from Kenya; now, we no longer do that. That’s why the president sent me here to encourage you to take advantage of the market we have,” Hon Tumwebaze told the farmers who hosted him at the farm of Stanislaus Kamanyiro, a prominent grape farmer in Mbarara City.
Having toured Mr. Kamanyiro’s farm that he started in 2000, Hon Tumwebaze asked to grow more table grapes since they grew mainly wine grapes. Mr. Kamanyiro, who operates under his Pearl Wines Grape Farmers, thanked the minister and reported the 2008 unfulfilled promise of a modern wine-making mini-factory made by the president when he visited his place.
The Minister promised to make a follow-up on Kamanyiro`s complaint and also directed Dr. Ambrose Agona, the Director-General of National Agriculture Research Organization (NARO) through Mbarara ZARDI, to coordinate a team of experts from the Agricultural Research Organization, NAADS, District Production Officer, and Mr. Kamanyiro to sit and find possible ways of getting good quality seeds and report back to him within two months. Dr. Agona responded that within one or two months, they would be giving the minister feedback.
Dr. Agona promised that NARO would use the committees’ farmers had set up to gather the metrics and data concerning the land each farmer in this project has and also comforted them when he said NARO had already done some samples of grapes that Mr. Kamanyiro had recommended and that they would be ideal for table grapes. “We will work hand-in-hand first to find out if the land is rich enough with soil levels or fertilities that would enable them to grow well,” Dr. Agona said. He also promised the minister that NARO would be doing more sensitization of farmers on how they can handle wine grapes in a bid to produce quality outputs. “There is a need to find means of how farmers can sort out unripe grapes and store them somewhere until they ripen,” Dr. Agona said, adding that such a method is better than chasing away farmers who have some unripe grapes, which he said causes them financial loss.